Developing A Heart Through Obscurity – Part 1

Developing a Heart through Obscurity -Part 1­­­

“I don’t need my name in lights, I don’t need a starring role, and why gain the whole wide world if I am just going to lose my soul?”    – Lecrae 

I am not too far removed from a time in my life when I placed much of my identity in the attention I received from playing soccer. If I wasn’t playing it, reading about it, playing a video game of it, or watching it, then I was dreaming about the popularity that would come with being successful in it. I had a deep longing to receive the trust of my teammates, the respect of my opponents, and the affection of the fans. As a matter of fact, there was a time I was so consumed with impressing others I managed to convince my mom to sign me up for my own personal gymnastic lessons. It wasn’t satisfying enough to just score goals, but I also wanted to have a cool celebration to go along with it. Looking back, I truly feel sorry for the poor instructor that had to deal with me during those few sessions. In the end, all I had to show for my mother’s hard earned money was the ability to do a cartwheel (if you could call it that..many six-year old girls would be ashamed if they saw it) and the ability to do a backflip…in a pool. It would be safe to assume that my brief experiment with gymnastics is not something I am proud of.

While I can sit back and laugh about it today, this story serves as a personal reminder of how much stock I put in how others perceive me. I believe many others can relate. We are willing to subject ourselves to fit into a certain mold, live behind an edited social media profile, jump through hoops and do whatever possible so that others will think favorably of us.

The problem with such a mentality is that we will end up riding the highs and lows that come with trying to impress others. Titles, talent, fame, body figure, accomplishments and possessions are all temporary; the joy that comes from those things is fleeting. The affirmation that we receive from others through such things will fade and eventually leave us empty if that is where we place our worth. A person will chase the spotlight only to find it moving on to someone else. Author and Pastor Lance Witt wrote that Even if you’ve had a moment where the spotlight is on you, it doesn’t last long. The spotlight is fickle. It will always turn toward the next rising star. Even if you’re in the spotlight today, obscurity is coming again. It’s inevitable.”

You see, despite our best efforts we will eventually all find ourselves in a state of obscurity at some point in our lives. In such times what will one have to lean on to find worth? It is my belief that the strongest individuals are those who are able to embrace obscurity and be content. Such a person will be at peace regardless if anyone is there to notice their successes. This individual is a person of integrity. There is no difference in who they are in private and who they are in public. They don’t hide behind titles, social media profiles, achievements, or anything else. They don’t have an unhealthy need to gain the approval of others. They are secure with who they are and their place in this life.

Why?

Because, such a person has discovered that the road to significance and worth starts by taking their rightful spot in the background. Our efforts to chase the spotlight leave us empty because we are not fit for the lead role. The best thing we can do is surrender ourselves to the only Person who demands the spotlight. As people who naturally desire the spotlight it is harder than it sounds to live out a life that allows God to take the lead role in every aspect. But, even though it can be difficult, it is of uttermost importance that one is intentional in taking the first steps towards the backseat. Doing so is the first and most vital step in developing a heart that embraces and matures through obscurity.

Look out for part 2…

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A Memoir To Act

Learn to do good, help the oppressed, defend the cause of orphans, and fight for the rights of widows.”  – Isaiah 1:17

These are the words God commanded the prophet Isaiah to say to the nation of Judah. In God’s eyes Judah had become defiled as a result of neglecting their responsibility to help those who were suffering. The sacrifices and ceremonies the people of Judah conducted were no longer pleasing to God. Such acts of worship were of no value coming from a wicked nation. The book of Isaiah states that Judah’s gifts had become meaningless, their worship was false, and their prayers went unheard.

My fear in reading about the nation of Judah is that I see Western Christian’s as being guilty of the same sin of negligence. Have we become so consumed with “worship”, traditions, and church events that we allowed ourselves to turn a blind eye to the injustices that continue to unfold right before us?

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are many Christian missionaries, service projects, para-church ministries, etc. all throughout the world that are doing great things. I understand that there are multiple examples of how Christians are leading the effort for the humanitarian causes around the world. Praise God for such people that humbly sacrifice themselves for such worthy causes. Yet, with that said, I must admit that I am still discouraged. It seems that it is rarer and rarer to find Christians who are committed enough to their beliefs to live a life of true sacrifice. Even then, some’s definition of being a living sacrifice consists of not saying certain words, only listening to Christian music, and wearing one-piece bathing suits. I am not saying that such matters should be overlooked if one is personally convicted to change. After all, seemingly small and insignificant changes are integral to the process of sanctification. My point is that our faith must, MUST, be deeper than that. We have become too comfortable in creating a Westernized version of Christianity that weakens the radical aspects of the Gospel. As clear threats to undermine the core teachings of Scripture continue to emerge, we have done very little to combat them. As of recent, this has become more and more evident. Let me explain…

For the last couple of months the news has been overflowing with the many atrocities being committed in the Middle East. In the last week alone ISIS has been responsible for beheading 21 Coptic Christian menburning 40 people alive, and trafficking organs of innocent civilians. Unfortunately the violence seems to repeat itself as there has been no shortage of reports of beheadings, ruthless executions, and senseless crimes against humanity being committed by ISIS and other factions. Aside from the many that have lost their lives, the thousands who have managed to escape have been displaced from their home, live in fear, are desperate, hopeless and numbed by pain. I don’t know if I could write enough words or share enough stories to justifiably describe the pain that is being felt throughout the Middle East. My purpose in this post isn’t to summarize all of the damage that has been done. Besides, my assumption is that many of you have already heard of the evil that is happening for at least the last year and have all the resources (i.e. internet connection, tv, library, radio, etc.) at your disposal to research further. My real point I am trying to get at is, “Do you care?”

Do I care?

It’s time to start being honest with ourselves and do some soul-searching. Something I am starting to realize in doing so is that it is very easy to sidestep any difficult questions that may arise. The reason being is because these difficult questions may cause us to think deeper and ultimately reveal the ugly truth about the condition of our heart

  • I want to care, I say I care, but do I really?
  • I want to be a living sacrifice, but how much and of what exactly am I really willing to sacrifice?
  • My heart breaks for those who are feeling pain, but do I let it break enough to want to make a difference, or do I guard myself from letting it get that far?
  • Am I too quick to draw near to the safer and more comfortable responses to injustices?
  • Do I really want to face the truth, or am I comfortable with not knowing?

God forbid if I were too….ask…whether you and I should be the ones in the trenches and protecting the oppressed on the frontlines of the Middle East?

Why is such a question so hard to ask? Is it because we don’t think God would put that burden on us? The problem is, is it really a burden? Do we understand what we are saying? Here is a perfect opportunity to unite and make a stand on God’s truth and be a shining example of what God’s done in our life for the entire world to see. There is no denying that the early church took a stand as many were heroically martyred for the sake of the preservation of the Gospel. Unfortunately today, while Western Christians have the financial assets and resources to make a difference, I am not sure we have the heart or are anywhere near as strong in our faith to make such a stand as the early church once did.

The church is the very structure God ordained to preserve and carry out its’ message. So why does it appear as if so many of us are helpless to finding a way to properly respond to the things we have been hearing in the news? In general, it seems to me that there has been a lack of civil and honest dialogue throughout the church as how to best handle this problem. Being a people commanded help the oppressed, defend the cause of orphans, and fight for the rights of widows we should be the first ones to initiate and facilitate such discussions. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to quick prayer and be content to do nothing else. Yes, prayer is powerful, but part of the power is that it causes us to see things how God sees them and to respond in action. We are co-laborers with Christ in both prayer and action! Personally, I don’t have the answers. I never claimed too. I am just as guilty as any other Christian who lives with the thought of feeling incapable of making a real difference. I haven’t allowed the issue to break me enough. I haven’t given or sacrificed enough. I haven’t mourned enough. I haven’t been faithful enough. I could go on and on.Maybe the truth, that you and I should be in Syria or Iraq at this very moment, is too hard for any of us to swallow. Perhaps we are all still comfortable drinking milk instead of trying to chew on any meat.We can’t settle for complacency any longer. Let’s start taking steps towards being prepared to radically respond when we hear cries of injustice.

What does it say about the God we worship if we act just as unaffected as much of the Western world does at the news of such evil? How can anyone with different beliefs tell us apart if we don’t make an attempt to back up the very things we claim to believe?

Threats

The existence of ISIS combined with our lack of action poses multiple threats to some of the most essential claims of Christianity. We can’t afford to sit back any longer while certain universal truths are being challenged and redefined. The claims we make should be forcing us into action if we truly believe them. Faith alone is not enough, it must produce good deeds, otherwise it is dead and useless (James 2).

The claim of having Intrinsic worth – ISIS has convinced their followers that anyone that does not bow before Allah and submits to Sharia law is an infidel, literally. Such extremists are able to commit such inhumane and atrocious crimes because they view others who don’t agree with them as less than human; as scum. Such a view directly opposes what scripture teaches. For each and every human being is made in the image of God and possesses intrinsic worth. Regardless of one’s race, sex, physical traits, achievements, possessions, job title, worldviews, or any other thing that a person may identify themselves by, the Bible states that each person’s worth is wholly grounded on being created in God’s image.  Life is considered sacred to God. Contrary to other worldviews, Christians believe that people are not merely a random coincidence or the product of genes dancing to the music of their DNA. Therefore, if people really are made in the image of God, then Christians have a clear responsibility to make sure that people are treated with dignity. Because, if Christians aren’t actively engaging in ways to validate human worth throughout Syria and Iraq, then other ideologies will take precedence. ISIS will continue to teach their followers that non-converts are scum and the oppressed will feel as valueless as they are treated.

The claim that Love conquers all– Watching multiple videos over the web of those involved in ISIS, it has become apparent that they are fully convinced that the only way to effectively spread their message is by the sword. Not only do they convert others with the threat of being executed, but they enforce Sharia law through excessive and unreasonably harsh punishments. From their perspective, force is the best option as all they care about is establishing a state. Nevertheless what they fail to realize is that force does not breed authentic worship. Love is what binds and connects humans to living in harmony with others and with God. Not only that, but Christians claim that God is love (1 John 4:7). Jesus was love perfected; his life and death were the ultimate example of what love looks like. If Christians could some up the message of the Gospel in one sentence it would be to love God and love one another. Therefore, Christians must live a life as a people who are recipients of such great love.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. SO we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters…let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” – 1 John 3:16, 18.

We aren’t to discriminate those who we show love to as the extremists do, but we are to love our enemy. Revenge isn’t ours to take, it is the Lords. “Instead if our enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink…Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good.” – Romans 12: 20a, 21

Christians have the greatest weapon to fight evil: love. Love spoken through action penetrates to the heart and genuinely draws people together. People let their guards down and listen to those who show they love and care them. We must not underestimate the power of an act of love; not to those around us or those across the world. I understand it is hard to show love to our enemies or to even consider it when dealing with people such as ISIS. It is then that we must appropriately realize how wicked and depraved we are ourselves apart from God. It is in such a realization that we come to understand that God’s love transcends to others because it first made it to us. I’m not sure what approach is best to demonstrate God’s love throughout the Middle East, but I do know that we must begin discussing how it would look and begin to start acting. We can no longer let our inaction affirm that a forceful religion is more powerful than a loving one.

For the sake of brevity, I will not introduce any more claims, but please note that these are only two of the many essential and core beliefs Christians hold that are being tarnished as we continue to neglect our role concerning ISIS. It is my desire that you and I both start engaging in deeper discussions and put an end to superficially responding to injustices that demand a carefully thought out response. As I said earlier, I don’t have the answers. Honestly, a very large part of me does not feel qualified to post this article because I have yet to really do much of anything myself. I am just a 22 year old guy that is in the process of doing some soul searching and trying to best discover how I can most appropriately respond to what is happening. In the very least if you can’t trust my words at least listen to these people whose words hold much more meaning than mine.

Quotes from true Heroes

If I am not worthy of being heard then in the very least, hear these people out as they are the one who have traveled to, were martyred while in, or are currently working in the areas affected by ISIS. Their words hold much more meaning than mine because when they heard the cries of injustice they actually decided to do something, anything about it. They didn’t leave it to others to act, but took it upon themselves to respond. In the end, we must not rely on these people to change the world by themselves; they act in hope that someone like you and I would follow their footsteps.

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*Sources for quote are hyperlinked to each person’s name.

“Its’ all worth while when you see what is needed actually gets to where it needs to go. That makes it all worth while. No sacrifice we do is anything compared to what they are going through every day”Alan Henning, British humanitarian worker (executed on 10/3/14)

“When Syrians hear I’m an American, they ask, ‘Where is the world?’ All I can do is cry with them, because I don’t know…For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal. (I will not let this be) something we just accept.  – Kayla Mueller, humanitarian worker in Syria. (Died 2/6/15 after being held captive for months.)

“We each get one life and that’s it. We get one shot at this and we don’t get any do-overs, and for me, it was time to put up or shut up,..Sometimes you gotta take a stand, you gotta draw a line somewhere.”Peter Kassig, humanitarian who started a whole organization, SERA to combat the problems in Syria. He ended up sacrificing his life to make it a reality. (Executed 11/16/14)

“I’m sick and tired of seeing so much evil being created in the world and so many innocent people suffering and no one doing anything about it for years.  I couldn’t live with it anymore, so I came here (Kobani, Syria) to fight….I prayed about it for a month or two..really soul searched for a while and decided to eventually do it.”  – Jordan Matson, American YPG fighter who is currently helping to protect the Syrian Kurds.

“I may not be able to do a lot, but if I could even do one thing to stop one atrocity from happening to one person, or rescue one girl it was completely worth my time and worth my life if that is what it costs….I know I can help and I would hate myself if I sat here and did nothing”Ruepert Jones, American YPG fighter currently helping to protect the Syrian Kurds

About Me

Hey, thanks for checking out my blog. My name is Taylor Jones. I am just an ordinary guy in his twenties using writing as a means to be more transparent to those around me. I don’t think of myself as a gifted writer or an expert of any sort. Rather, to me, I see blogging as a way in which I can be more honest and authentic in my communication. It is my true intention to pour my heart out in a manner that allows others to see how my faith transforms the way I perceive things. Other than that, please keep in mind that I am a Christian and much of what I write comes from a biblical worldview. Nonetheless I sincerely hope that others who come from different beliefs and worldviews will take the time to read my posts and participate in friendly dialogue.